Surrounded by mountains and shrouded in legend, Lake Wakatipu and its crystal waters draw visitors as the longest lake on New Zealand's South Island. A day on Lake Wakatipu is arguably the highlight of any trip to Queenstown and the Otago region.
The variety of tour offerings on Lake Wakatipu reflects Queenstown's reputation as a haven for the adventurous. Extreme jet boats ferry passengers to 4WD vehicles for off-road adventures in the Southern Alps or Paradise Valley; helicopter tours fly travelers over the lake, Fiordland, and Milford Sound to a picnic atop Cecil Peak; and fishing charters promise a good catch from the lake's stock of salmon and trout.
Those seeking serenity will be equally pleased with their options, from cruising aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw en route to dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm to gliding along the river on a catamaran cruise while taking in the view of the Remarkables mountain range. View the lake itself from Saint Omer Park, Queenstown Gardens, the Queenstown Trail, or one of the many restaurants on the southern shoreline in central Queenstown.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tour options are available for families with kids and solo adventurers alike.
- Be sure to dress in layers, as wind can pick up suddenly.
- Tours range from short, 90-minute excursions to full-day, 8-hour adventures.
How to Get to Lake Wakatipu
Queenstown is right on the lake, so a trip to this popular city includes easy lake access. Additional access points abound between Kingston on the south end and Glenorchy on the north end. Tours usually include round-trip pickup and drop-off from Queenstown.
When to Get There
The Southern Lakes region is a year-round travel destination, offering phenomenal skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Lake activities are more popular during the warmer months, although the glacier-fed lake remains cold regardless of the season.
Atmospheric pressures cause the water level in the lake to rise and fall about five inches (12 centimeters) every five minutes. This gave rise to the Maori legend that the rise and fall of the water is the heartbeat of a giant who lies slumbering under the water. Modern storytellers chose the lake as a filming location for the Lothlorein scenes in The Lord of the Rings.